Study: Only one in four Detroit schools doing a decent job of instruction

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DETROIT – A new analysis of Detroit area schools finds that only one in four is doing a decent job of educating children.

But this isn’t just another exposé of the beleaguered Detroit Public Schools.

ReportCdThe new report, released Wednesday morning, considers virtually all 200-plus schools involved with educating Detroit’s students: government-run public schools, charters and private schools.

Its less-than-exciting conclusions might prove to be dispiriting for those concerned with bettering the lives of Detroit-area children.

This new analysis – which assigns letter grades to schools – comes from Excellent Schools Detroit, a K-12 reform group that operates with the goal of connecting families with successful schools. The group is made up of leaders from various philanthropic, education, community and civic organizations, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Of the 204 schools examined by Excellent Schools Detroit over the course of two years, 51 received a grade of C+ or better – a grade the group considers acceptable.

Schools that are in the early stages of a state-imposed turnaround process were not given a letter grade, only an assessment of whether evaluators believe they are finally on the right track or not, the Free Press reports.

School grades were determined through a blend of student performance data (i.e. test scores, graduation rates), surveys of teachers and students, and site reviews conducted by a team of 264 volunteers and parents, reports the Free Press.

The survey were used to determine various conditions, such as how involved families are in the education process, how much teachers collaborate with each other, and the quality of the lessons presented to students, reports

The team of volunteers, on the other hand, evaluated the schools’ appearance and physical soundness, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods.

In some cases, the group’s grade for a school differs sharply from state-issued ratings.

“For instance, Thirkell Elementary in Detroit earned a B+ grade (from Excellent Schools Detroit); however the school was ranked among the bottom 2 percent in the state” by the Michigan Department of Education, which only looks at test scores, the Free Press notes.

Despite the occasional discrepancies between this new report and Michigan’s official rankings, it’s hard to ignore the spirit Excellent Schools Detroit analysts put into their study.

Dan Varner, ESD’s executive director, summed up the group’s intentions beautifully: “We want families to fill the seats in the highest-quality schools we have, and we want the lowest-quality schools to suffer financially.”

By Ben Velderman at

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